College football’s ten best single game performances

So far this season we have already seen some truly fantastic and memorable individual performances, even outside of West Virginia's high-flying victory against Baylor in Morgantown. In honor of some of the great performances we have witnessed so far this season we wanted to take a look at ten of the best individual performances in college football history. We discussed a number of options to consider and I had the unenviable task of trying to put them in some sort of ranking.

Know this, putting together this top ten list was extremely difficult and there is probably no unanimous decision on how to properly order these outstanding performances. We should all be able to agree though that these are all performances that should be treasured and never forgotten. So let's take a look back on some of our top performances.

1. Vince Young smells the roses

The 2006 Rose Bowl may go down as one of the best bowl games of all time. With a pair of true, classic heavyweights, USC and Texas, and Heisman-worthy players on both sidelines, this was what the kids call an "epic" match-up. And boy did it live up to the hype. The top-ranked Trojans were good. Darn good. But on this night in Pasadena, Vince Young was the best. The Longhorns quarterback, who finished second in the Heisman voting behind USC's Reggie Bush, was in the zone.

Young completed 30 pass attempts for 267 yards. While none of those 30 passes entered the end zone, Young took care of business on the ground by rushing for 200 yards and three touchdowns. All of those yards were important, but the most memorable eight yards of Young's career came with 19 seconds remaining in the game, on fourth down and five yards to go for a first down. Vince had something bigger in mind.

Keith Jackson, take it away…

2. Tommie Frazier for all the Tostitos

Tommie Frazier rushed for a Fiesta Bowl-record 199 yards and passed for just 105 yards as Nebraska blew away the Florida Gators for the national championship, Nebraska's second-straight.

"There's just one thing Coach Osborne always asks from the quarterbacks and the running backs and that is that we just run hard, tough and physical," Frazier said. "And that's one thing I did tonight."

Run he certainly did. Frazier made one of the best runs in college football postseason history, running the option right, faking the pitch and escaping from defenders for a long touchdown. That play alone should qualify him to make this list, but to rush for 199 yards in the game and lead the Cornhuskers to a national championship gets some bonus points. Does it deserve to be ranked this highly? Surely if Joe Posnanski once wrote a list of the top 15 individual performances (no longer available online) and Frazier was the only college football mention, it deserves a lofty spot in our ranking.

3. Ndamukong Suh nearly beats Texas by himself

Back-to-back Cornhuskers? It is deserved.

When it comes to individual performances it seems defensive players never get the attention they probably deserve. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh's performance gainst the Texas Longhorns in the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game though is the exception to the rule. Suh put together 11 tackles, six for a loss with 4.5 sacks against Colt McCoy and the BCS-Championship Game bound Longhorns. If it were not for Suh, Nebraska may not have stood a chance. His showing in the game clinched a spot for him in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. He did not win but he certainly deserved to be there.

McCoy probably still has nightmares about Suh.

4. Geno Smith's Big 12 Debut

Let's be honest here, Geno Smith's performance against Baylor is the reason we are even talking about great individual performances in the first place today. While most of the standout performances we have listed here (not all) had some sort of championship on the line, Smith's outing came toward the beginning of the season. But when you re-write the record books, you have a strong case to be on this list regardless of implications and time of year.

Smith went 45-of-51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns in West Virginia's first Big 12 game in program history. The outing was the story of the early season for Smith, who ended the day with 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions in September.

5. Red Grange scores five touchdowns vs Wolverines

Let's dip in to the digital archives and travel back to the days of leather helmets and a lack of high-flying offenses dependent on the passing game. Red Grange led Illinois against Michigan in a Western Conference (the Big Ten before it was the Big Nine!) opener in the grand opening of Memorial Stadium. He didn't waste much time getting started on his five-touchdown performance either. The Galloping Ghost rushed for 265 yards and scored four times in the first 12 minutes of the game with runs of 95, 67, 56 and 44 yards. He ended the game with 402 rushing yards. The bets part yet, there is video evidence of this great performance…

6. Robert Griffin III's Heisman Moment(s) vs. Oklahoma

There are certain points of a season when you just know who the Heisman Trophy winner is going to be. Last season it is safe to say Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III had his Heisman moment at the expense of the Oklahoma Sooners. The tipped pass to Kendall Wright that went the distance for a touchown showed that the eventual Heisman winning quarterback would get the lucky bounces, but his winning touchdown pass to Williams is the real Heisman moment.

These two plays highlighted a night in which RGIII completed 21 of his 34 passes (good, not great…. but wait) for 479 yards and four touchdowns. The big night helped No. 25 Baylor knock off No. 5 Oklahoma and the Bears did not lose another game until last weekend in Morgantown. Griffin III went on to win the Heisman Trophy and was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the second overall pick in this year's draft, and now he is starting in the NFL. That night last season though, will show just how special he was.

7. Cam Newton leads Auburn to SEC Championship

One of the top Cam Newton memories I have from his days at Auburn has to be the way he led the Tigers out of a deep hole at Alabama to remain undefeated. But his performance in the SEC Championship Game against South Carolina was pretty darn impressive as well. Newton accounted for six touchdowns against the Gamecocks in Atlanta. Four of those touchdowns came through the air, highlghted by a Hail Mary tipped pass to Darvin Adams at the end of the first half.

In the first quarter Newton connected with Adams for a 55-yard touchdown strike that put Auburn up 21-7 on their way to the BCS Championship Game against Oregon. In all, Newton ended the night with 335 passing yards, four touchdown passes, 73 rushing yards to lead the Tigers and two more rushing touchdowns.

And, of course, before Desmond Howard's Beaver Juice there was Cammy Cam Juice.

8. Tim Tebow scores seven vs. Gamecocks en route to Heisman

OK, we waited long enough. It's time to drag Tim Tebow in to the conversation. Let's take a look at the night many believe he became the clear front runner for the Heisman Trophy in 2007, when he accounted for seven touchdowns against the South Carolina Gamecocks. We here at Crystal Ball Run are not sucked in to Tebow love by any stretch of the imagination but how can you not respect what he did that November night in Columbia, scoring two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the game (one on the ground and the second through the air), then scring twice on the ground in the span of 2 minutes 20 seconds in the second quarter, passing for 304 yards and rushing for 120 yards in a 51-31 victory?

Don't worry, there is a video tribute to the night.

9. Howard Griffith rushes for eight touchdowns

There's just something about those Illini rushers.

Sure, Geno Smith passed for eight touchdowns against Baylor, but on a September day in 1990 Illinois running back Howard Griffith, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network, scored eight touchdowns on the ground. Sure, it was against Southern Illinois, not exactly a stingy defense, but to enter the end zone eight times in a game is clearly worth mentioning regardless of the opponent. He did so touching the football 21 times in three quarters. Of course, it was a key defensive play by Southern Illinois at Griffith's expense that fired him up for the rest of the game. After the Salukis returned a Griffith fumble for a touchdown Griffith scored touchdowns on three consecutive carries in the second quarter, from 51, 7 and 41 yards respectively. After Southern Illinois scored their final touchdown of the game, Griffith scored seven more times.

This video clip also reminds us that Colorado running back Eric Bienemy scored four touchdowns against Nebraska in the fourth quarter in a wild game in November. That should be an honorable mention as well.

10. Barry Sanders celebrates Heisman Trophy with Heisman performance

December 3, 1988 was a huge day for the humble Barry Sanders. Sanders was awarded the Heisman Trophy but he was not in New York City for the presentation. He was in Tokyo, watching the announcement via sattelite at 8 am Tokyo time. He and Oklahoma State were playing a game nine hours later against texas Tech in the Tokyo Dome for the regular season finale. And Sanders went out and put together a Heisman-worthy performance by rushing 44 times for 332 yards and four touchdowns in a wild, and long, game against the Red Raiders. With the rushing total against Texas Tech Sanders set a new NCAA rushing record with 2,628 rushing yards in a season.

Interesting side note: Oklahoma State's quarterback that season was Mike Gundy. Gundy completed 18 of 27 passes with two touchdown passes in the game.


Honorable Mentions

Herschel Walker makes his smashing debut vs Tennessee – "My God, a freshman."

David Klingler sets FBS passing record – Passed for FBS record 716 yards in a game against Eastern Washington in the Alamodome in 1990.

Tayor Heincke vs New Hampshire – Old Dominion's quarterback set Division 1 passing record with 730 passing yards in a game against New Hampshire in 2012. Old Dominion needed every one of those yards in a 64-61 win. In all honesty, we probably should have included this in the top ten somewhere.

We want to know what individual performances do you think should be worth remembering, or which ones did we just leave off this list that should be included? Leave your suggestions and feedback in the comment section so we can continue honoring top individual performances in college football.


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About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.